Wednesday Morning, November 17, 1999:

Meeting with the Three Gorges Dam Project Corporation - Beijing


On Wednesday, November 17, 1999, The People to People Delegation was invited to a presentation by Yu Eneking; Deputy Director Senior engineer of the China Yangtze Three Gorges Project Development Corp. He presented the history and status of the Three Gorges Dam Project.

Understanding the context of the Chinese nation is important when discussing the Three Gorges Dam Project. China is home to over 3 billion people and boasts a history that spans 5000 years. Though it is one of the worlds largest nations, there is quite a lot of diversity among its people. Over 50 languages and dialects are spoken throughout the country and there are many regional differences throughout the nation.

There has been a need for a dam on the Yangtze for a long time. Devastating floods have marked the history of this area and damming the river was seen as the best fix for this problem. As early as 1919, Dr. Sun Yat Sen in his 'Industrial Plan' suggested the Three Gorges project. The main purpose of the dam is flood control. In the 1950's the CPC Central Committee established 200 meters (660 ft) as the maximum pool depth for such a dam. Since the water level varies throughout the year and is sometimes very low in summers, it was decided to build one large dam rather than several smaller dams because smaller dams would not have provided enough water for large ships.

One of the largest challenges of the project has been the design and operation of the ship lock. The ship channel will accommodate ships up to 10,000 tons. It is expected that a ship will be able to pass through in 3 to 4 hours and there will be no charge to any ship using the channel.

Facts About the 3 Gorges Dam
The planning, research and design fell to thousands of engineers and technicians from the Chang Jiang Water Resources Commission. The final design factor that determined whether to use one or more dams was the relationship between the requirement for comprehensive utilization and restricting the foundation. The finished dam will be 185 M (610ft) high and 2309 M (7620 ft) long. The reservoir will be 600 KM (375 miles) long. The power generation will be through 26 turbine generators producing 700 MW each. This will replace the power from 50 million tons of coal per year or 9% of China's 1998 power demand.

Financing of Construction
The project is being financed by Government (1/3), loans (1/3) and the sale of hydropower (1/3) which will begin in 2003. The contract to build the dam was a lump sum contract with 5-8 bidders typically vying for each part of the dam. The job was bid using unit prices and the contract award was given to the bid, which was closest to the government estimate. Bonus incentives are given for early completion if the work package is critical. It is anticipated that the money will be repaid in 17 years from the hydropower generated. There are presently 30,000 workers on site. Project completion is anticipated in 2009.

Relocation of Local Citizens
During the design phase, relocation of the flooded areas posed a challenge. Initially, it was expected that about 1 million people need to be moved. The current best estimate is not to exceed 1.5 million. It is estimated that for every dollar spent on construction, one dollar will be spent on relocation of the people who live in the affected areas. Local governments are responsible for relocating people in the area. 60% of those being relocated are farmers. New 'orchards' have been created for those relocated, but farmers may be farming different crops. As for people's attitude toward being uprooted, the younger generation finds it fairly easy to move, while the older generation is more 'rooted to the land'. One third of one million people have been moved to date.

Other Design Factors
Sedimentation was considered in the design of the dam. Currently, projections show that sedimentation will not be a problem for 50 to 100 years. However, there is now a reforestation problem along all the bands of the reservoir. Further, trees may not be cut in that area. The reservoir will also be flushed of accumulated sediments and pollutants.

Efforts are being made to move archeological items to higher ground. Some have been moved in the past for floods and were then moved back.

The site has been determined to be seismically inactive with granite bedrock, however, there are some faults about 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) away.

Local Precedents
The Gezhousa dam was built downstream from the Three Gorges dam site. It was completed in 1988 and served to provide a great deal of data for the Three Gorges construction and operation. For example, they found that although a fish ladder was built, 'nobody told the fish how to use it', so they tried planting hatchlings below the dam. The next year these adult fish returned to that spot to spawn.

Notes by Mr. William G. Catlin and Mr. Geoffrey E. Wolfe


 Chinese attendees at the meeting

Mr. Yu Wenxing, Deputy Director - Senior Engineer, China Yangtze Three Gorges Project Development Corporation


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